Northern BC Community -TCUP 2016 Update

by Sweetgum

TCUP is a community in British Columbia.


Winter is coming – as evidenced by the frozen pond. Some still choose to break the ice and enter the pond for a refreshing bath after the sauna, others take the more convenient but perhaps less refreshing method of using a pot of water heated from the stove.
Our sauna stacked with offcuts from the birch mill. They make a hot fire quick. On the left are some garden beds mulched with leaves for planting apple seedlings next spring. We started several dozen from seed and whichever survive our neglect and the winter cold will be rootstock.
Working on finishing the second story of the pentagon tower so we can cover it for the winter. Last year we made a contraption of sticks and cardboard that sort of made it through the season before being ripped to shreds by the wind.

Comparison photo. The inside of the plastic “roof” over the first story of the pentagon last year.

And a brief recap of some of what we’ve been doing over the summer and fall:

tcup7Volunteer Max working on leveling the floor, his pet project.
tcup8Group picture with some donated coffeehouse shirts.
tcup9Music by the fire.
tcup10Rocket mass heater and bench, under construction.
tcup11The lonnng contour hugelkultur bed for our perennial food forest.


Rocketmass heater showing where to put the wood.

Martin happily harvesting garlic.
Northern BC Community -TCUP 2016 Update

Winter meals and the vegan guest

by las Indias

In las Indias, cooking is felt to be a service and a creative personal expression. It is the everyday way of showing the others how you care for them. Around one o’clock someone, the first who are tired of work or have already finished the tasks they wanted to do during the morning, volunteers for going shopping and preparing lunch. We prepare the table with a tablecloth and we start every lunch with a little ceremonial toast. Lunch is meaningful. We spend more than two hours enjoying dishes and wine -usually from different parts of Spain- and conversation. And then we come back to the office.

But we are six, we often have visitors and guests, and we don’t have a big kitchen. That means we prepare small dishes and delicatessen as aperitifs and, if the «fresh ingredient» of the day is a light one, we will have to prepare a second dish that is scalable and powerful, specially during winter. For example, we cannot cook more than a big fish in the oven, but yesterday we bought a beautiful fresh hake of one and a half kilogram, so while Mayra prepared it for the oven we prepared our famous tuna sauce in the pressure cooker and I blanched in some tuna sirloins. Meantime the rest of us set the table and prepared some small aperitifs (homemade cheese carried from parent’s home, partridge pate made by a friend, spiced black Aragon olives…). You can imagine it. We use to say «without celebration nothing remains», and we try to make every day a memorable one.

And then imagine someone appears who says they are a vegan.


**The vegan guest**

When our friend GPaul was on his way to visit us the first time, he received creepy stoic advice from Danish communards: «You are vegan, be careful, you will suffer in Spain». There is some truth in it. In popular bars and «food houses», it is almost impossible to eat vegan. Spanish traditional food is full of fish and the «iberian pig» is more holy for the most of the people than any particular invocation of Virgin Mary.

Paradoxically traditional Mediterranean cooking is full of dishes that are objectively vegan. The problem is locals don’t recognize them. When they receive a vegan at home, they look for processed vegan food (tofu burgers, etc.) they would never eat, or specific «vegan recipes» on the Internet. These recipes come from English and German books of the seventies and the eighties. Let’s face it: few people come to Europe looking for traditional English or German cuisine and it happens for a reason.

We also know many vegans have a kind of martyrdom vocation which allows them to eat Mediterranean Summer food during the whole year: toasted bread with olive oil and vegan pates, humus, gazpacho, ajoblanco (a gazpacho of almonds, without tomatoes), boiled vegetables lightly fried in a wok… but if you go to the street with this in your stomach during Madrid’s winter, you will probably freeze before the bus arrives.

On the other hand, as you probably noticed, we are not vegan, but lunch is about sharing. The arrival of vegan visitors means to cook vegan convincingly enough not only for the newcomer but also for your fish eaters, pork lovers, and cheese fanatics too.

So, let’s look for help in the indiano traditional cookbook and let’s prepare some Mediterranean cuisine winter menus… vegan friendly.

**First Menu: On ancient revolutions**

The Revolt of the Comuneros (=communards) was the first Iberian bottom to top democratic movement. It set the cities of Castille against the coronation of Emperor Charles Habsbourgh (Charles V in Germany). It put an assembly controlled urban democracy up against the Imperial regime that was coming with the new dynasty. It finished in 1521 with a big battle -a massacre- in the town of Villalar, where thousands of revolutionary free peasants and bourgeoisie, badly armed, found the Imperial professional troops managed by the main nobles of the kingdom.

Villalar passed into popular History thanks to a famous «romance» of the battle preserved as folklore until today. But also because of its lentils. They still cook them with a simple recipe we improved with a honey touch.

– Wine: Caballero de Castilla, Ribera del Duero

***First dish: Leeks with ajoaceite***

We wrap the leeks in aluminum foil one by one. We put them in the oven at 180ºC for some minutes. We open it and we put them on the plate. We serve it with the company of a little bowl of «ajoaceite» sauce.

Ajoaceite means «garlic and oil». It is an strong and bitter vegan alternative to «mahonesa» (a sauce from Mahó in Menorca, whose name in English became «mayonnaise»). To prepare it, we put in the blender a clove of garlic without its heart, a bit of salt and half the juice of a lemon. Usually we make it with extra virgin olive oil, but sunflower oil produces a lighter result. While mixing them we slowly add oil until it curdles.

***Second dish: Communard lentils***


The night before, we put the lentils (around 1/2 kg) in a big bowl with water. Before cooking we will drain them.

We will use a pressure cooker. We stir fry three onions, cut in julienne strips, with olive oil. When they become transparent we add generous powdered nutmeg, salt and two glasses of oloroso or if we haven’t got oloroso, white wine.

Then we add the lentils and we cover them with 3/4 of lemonade (made just with water, honey and lemon juice) and 1/4 of white wine. We close the pressure cooker and leave it around 30 minutes (depending on the pressure cooker, the time changes). Finally, once opened, before serving, we will mix the result with the juice of half a lemon.

**Second menu: On abundance in poverty**

Chickpeas have been the life jacket of popular classes since the Roman times. Chickpeas were one of the first domesticated plants 8000 years ago in Anatolia and they never abandoned the Mediterranean sea. There are even Latin treaties on its, supposed, medical and moral properties. And the Spanish classic literature (Cervantes, Quevedo, etc.) is full of references to the «olla», the medieval stew of chickpeas that is still the basic winter dish in many Spanish regions. Nonetheless chickpeas were complemented since Renaissance times with potatoes, the only American treasure European working classes of the Empire could enjoy for centuries.

Our second menu will have two dishes: a very traditional one, «Poor person style potatoes» and Indiano chickpeas, a dish that is also rooted in tradition but with our own style.

– Wine: Peñamonte, Toro

***First dish: «Patatas a lo pobre»***

We cut five big potatoes in slices and we salt them, three onions in julienne, two peppers in strips and four garlic cloves in small cubes.

We stir fry in a big pan with very low fire, the garlic cloves in something around a half to a quarter of a glass of olive oil. When they are lightly toasted we give life to the fire and we add the peppers. When they lose their rigid look and the skin starts to separate from the pepper’s flesh, we add the onions until they become transparent.

Then lowering the fire, we add a little spoonful of hot paprika and the potatoes, mixing all with care. When potatoes take the paprika color (red), we add a glass of white wine (better if «oloroso» sherry) and put a frying pan top on, letting the vapor to go out through the valve.

It will take a around 25 minutes. We stir it carefully with a wooden spoon every 5 or 10 minutes and we serve the result with a topping of fresh parsley cut in small squares.

***Second dish: Indiano chickpeas***
We let chickpeas (around 1/2 kg) rest in a bowl full of water during the night and before cooking we drain them.

We fry with olive oil three onions cut in juliennes. When they are transparent we add two little coffee spoons of sweet and sour Paprika (usually «de la Vera», the best Spanish denomination, from «la Vera» county, in Extremadura) and immediately (there’s nothing worse than burnt paprika) 5 small juicy tomatoes. When the tomatoes are cooked, we will add three or four big spoons of soy sauce (depending on how salty you like them), two glasses of white wine (an «oloroso» sherry would be perfect) and we will blend it all. Then we cover with grape juice and water (50/50) and we close the pressure cooker, cooking them for about 45/50 minutes.

**Third menu: On the first workers strike**

The first workers strike in Spain is documented in the XVII century. In those days, tuna became more expensive and the ship owners decided not to allow the fishermen to take a piece of their captures for making their stew. In its place they would receive a salmon. When the fishermen tried to make their traditional tuna stew with salmon… it did not work, the flesh was too soft for stew and the result was clearly unsatisfying. So they stopped working until they were allowed to use their own fished fresh tuna. It was a big strike, the first remembered by Iberian History.

Indianos prepare a tuna stew of our own. But it is not bad at all for vegans… if we don’t use tuna but, in example, hearts of chives and small carrots. It is powerful, so it really doesn’t need a first dish, but just a little more of (vegan) aperitifs, like home made asparagus pate, artichoke pate or olive -green/black- pate. We will serve it with a wine called «Privilegio» (=privilege) just in order to give this very cheap menu an ironic taste 😀

– Wine: Privilegio, Ribera del Guadiana

***Heart of chives and small carrots stew***

We stir fry two big peppers and three onions in olive oil in the way we did in the recipes before, this time using sweet and sour paprika «de la vera» and 6 tomatoes before blending it all.

Then we add 1/2 l grape juice and 1/2 l of white wine and 3 big potatoes cut in little cubes. We add salt, a big spoon of honey, three spoons of soy sauce and we cook the mix in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. We blend the result, we add the carrots and the hearts of chives, and again close the cooker and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes.

**A good meal**

The important and most valuable part of preparing a meal together is priceless and cannot be found in the market. In this post, we added History and popular culture to learn how to transform Nature in the most productive way, with the less consumption of resources. We shared our little ceremony: every day a different one of us dedicates the work of the day to the meaningful things he/she considers the day have to be dedicated to, with a toast. And we enjoy our senses, being with the other indianos and our guests, and conversation: body, feelings and reasoning. And of course, we can share it with with our guests, vegans or not, too… even during a cold winter day.

Some notes:

Every menu here cost less than US$1.25 per person wine included.  Communal living is really more productive than an individualistic one in a very accountable way.


In Spain, lunch is the more important meal.   If people had to lunch out -as the majority do in Madrid- their quality of life will worsen -as they cannot share it with their families- and if they have to have lunch in a food house or a restaurant they will never pay less than 7 times what it costs to us…

For people thinking about making an urban community, making good cooking of any kind (vegan or not) can be really affordable…  We hope for American readers maybe this will make cooking itself and eating legumes a little bit more attractive.

We think that spreading cooking-culture is a big front in the fight against social decomposition. An NGO we met in Gijón (North of Spain) discovered that their program with the most social impact (and they do all sort of things) was when they created an industrial kitchen where they cook every day with migrant families. The original goal was to avoid the health consequences in kids from processed food and poor nutrition (many of them come from the Dominican Republic and Colombia where apparently low income workers and disclassed people have adopted the American industrial food culture). But their revolutionary achievement was to encourage the families to have lunch or dinner together. Just reimplementing this small institution not only changed their health levels, but also improved the achievements of the kids in school, reduced drug use and  alcoholism, etc. Since these migrants come from Hispanic countries, not only the language but the deep culture is the same, so the meals in every house opened them to neighbors, interchanging dishes, having coffee together… so, this NGO started with cooking but ended creating community feelings with more depth and extent than any program designed for confronting xenophobia and racism in troubled neighborhoods.

Here we have food markets in every neighborhood more like an American «farmer market» than to a supermarket, but they are always open and they are a lot cheaper than supermarkets (supermarkets are adapting now, distributing local producers and promoting them). So the majority of people eat what you call «real food» and have a discipline of family lunch or dinner that could turn out to even be oppressive if your couple’s parents or yours insist in extending it to the weekend every weekend (family lunches are really more like an unending assembly with friends visiting, table games, football matches, etc.). Paradoxically this institution of «dining with parents and brothers/sisters and visiting friends» has made the difference during the crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. In Spain, better productivity of real food cooked at home and extended family model allowed close to two million families, with kids and no wages nor income because of unemployment, to eat everyday thanks to the, usually small, pension of the grandparents.

The good side of all this is that the pride of community and family, as the basic institutions of society, grew. And with it an egalitarian community like ours changed a lot in social perception from something «odd», distrustable, associated with cults in the catholic imagination; to a healthy way of living and working happier and a model/lab for learning from and playing with. The bad side is that traditional culture pride also fed nationalisms of all kinds because people associate traditional culture with welfare and surviving and identify cultural challenges as attacks. The sad result is by first time in our memory Spanish left, specially the new left, is nationalist… and that is sad and dangerous.


Winter meals and the vegan guest

Fall News from Living Energy Farm

from the Living Energy Farm September – October 2016 Newsletter
Finishing EarthHeart, Our Main House
       We are finishing our off-grid house, EarthHeart. The strawbale is all done. The building is fully insulated, the stucco is done, the drywall is hung. We are finishing up the tiling and painting. Our solar hot water system is working well. The solar heating system for the house is also fully operational.

Our building philosophy is to keep the frills to a minimum and invest our time and money on making sure our buildings and systems work well. To that end, our walls are 18 inches thick. We have “R-50” insulation in the attic, which is more than most buildings. Simplicity of design also helps a building function well, and keeps the cost down.


We have avoided vaulted ceilings, clear stories, or skylights as such features tend to be both expensive and leaky. The results are clear already. Though we have seen temperatures as low as 28 F, we have not needed to run our solar heating blowers. (Now
that we are painting, we are running the blowers so we can keep the doors open and keep the house warm.)The combination of good insulation and passive solar keep the house in the upper 60s F at night without added heat. The solar hot water is toasty warm, even after several cloudy days.
      For various reasons, we decided to put the first house at LEF well off the main road.  Now we hear coyotes and owls as much the distant sound of traffic. But we are also inaccessible for fire trucks during part of the winter. Thus we have installed some simple fire fighting equipment in case there is trouble in paradise on a muddy winter day. For now we have a small gas pump tied to a water storage tank, though we will likely install something more reliable in the long run. Even as we scale down industrial society, by choice or as we are forced to, one hopes we can power emergency services with liquid fuel. Nothing compares to liquid fuels for fast and mobile power output. No wonder they are so addictive….
Nickel-Iron Battery Testing
     There are two particular technologies we have deployed at LEF that we feel like would be useful in villages around the world. One is our direct-drive DC economy, and the second is our Nickel-Iron (NiFe) lighting system. A few years ago, we purchased a set of NiFe batteries and set them up running a few lights in one of our agricultural buildings. The NiFe set we have is rated at 100 amp-hours. Simple translation is about the same as a single car battery, though functionally they are very different. Most off-grid houses have much larger battery sets, often 1000 amp-hours or more.
     For construction, we have been running power tools off of a couple of lead-acid  batteries tied to an inverter. While it is possible to build a house without a circular saw or other power tools, we decided to use a standard lead-acid batteries for a few years in order to expedite construction. We have been using the same lead-acid batteries for temporary lighting in our kitchen (which is separate from the main house) until we could get the NiFes installed.  It has been interesting to watch the lead-acids decline. Over the course of a few short years, the lead-acids have lost a significant amount of charge capacity. In extended cloudy periods, the voltage on lead-acids drops into the range where the batteries themselves start to degrade.
     Since we swapped over to the NiFes, the difference is significant. The voltage on the NiFes has been remaining high, and the lights have remained bright, right through two week-long cloudy periods. The voltage on the NiFe 12V set has remained above 13.2V, which is to say we have not yet touched their full usable capacity. With normal off-grid systems, the inverters shut down at 11.5V, at which point the user is literally left in the dark. We can pull the NiFes down as far as we want without damaging them, if we ever need to.
     In thinking about taking LEF abroad to villages around the world, we realized that many people in non-industrial areas are dependent on cell phones. In order to test our NiFe system, we tied an automotive cigarette lighter into our 12 volt system to plug in a cell phone charger. We have been charging as many cell phones as we and our interns need, and the system has shown not flagged for power. Right now, the panels charging the NiFes are 200 watts. (Most residential grid-tie systems these days are 5 – 10 KW, or 25 to 50 times larger.) Solar panels are environmentally costly to build, so being able to use a lot less of them is significant.
    lef-fall2 We tell people when they come to LEF that the primary “technology” that makes our renewable energy economy work is cooperation. Our community is organized to maximize efficiency. We minimize the need for stored electricity by sharing the use of the tools and facilities we have, and by storing energy in forms other than electricity.   The huge battery sets in ordinary off-grid houses last 5 years or so and cost thousands of dollars to replace. These big battery sets are used to power large, two-stage inverter systems to generate 120V and 240V sine wave power so people can run well pumps, refrigerators, laptops, etc off of their off-grid power source. After some years, people realize that the cost of the replacement batteries alone exceeds the cost of grid power.  (Notwithstanding the hidden environmental cost of grid power.)
     At LEF, we store heat in the dirt under the floor, so we don’t need to run a heating system at night. We have slightly larger water storage tanks so we don’t have to run a well pump at night. We store electricity ONLY to light up DC LEDs, which are super-efficient. And now we are charging cell phones and personal devices. We intend to grow our own entertainment at LEF, rather than watching screens. But for the sake of our outreach program that seeks to help villages around the world become energy self-sufficient, we want to know if we can support such use with NiFes.
    The fact that an entire community of people at LEF can easily have all the lighting they need (and charge their phones) with the storage capacity of a single car battery speaks to the efficiency of this design. Each bedroom at LEF has two overhead lights. With a 3 watt DC LED in each socket, we can light a room well enough to read fine print with 6 watts. In the coming months, we will test the NiFe batteries more thoroughly. We have also acquired some small, used NiFe batteries for further testing. (They might be suitable for a household, but cheaper than the set we have.) NiFe batteries are nontoxic, nonexplosive, and can be made in a modestly scaled factory. To our knowledge, they are the only battery ever developed that does not degrade with each charge cycle. As we look to spreading the LEF model to other parts of the world, we are looking into what it would take to set up NiFe production in other parts of the non-industrial world.
Enjoying the Harvest
     As is true every year on a diversified farm, we had some bumper crops and some crop failures this year. Most of our seed crops produced well. We had a bumper crop of Tahitian Melon winter squash. We also produced a fantastic crop of Florianni Red Flint corn. After lusting over various grain grinders for years, we finally bit the bullet and invested in a good mill. The one we have is called a Grainmaker. It is small enough to run by hand, but large enough to be turned by a motor (driven by direct drive solar power, in our case, no batteries necessary!). The grinder could support the food needs of a sizable village, or allow us to sell specialty grain meal. In the meantime, we have been grinding our corn, as well as wheat, oats, and other grains. The flavor of the grits, bread, flat breads, and cereals we have been making is phenomenal.
     Last spring was harsh, and included a devastating late freeze that wiped out most of the fruit. But, we have lots of persimmons, as they are among the most resilient of all fruiting trees. Many of our meals these days at LEF are dominated by home-grown ingredients. Another important aspect of reclaiming local power is gaining control over our health. Corporate food undermines the global environment, the future of democracy, and the health of your own body. The leading causes of death and disease in the U.S. are all related to poor food and the extensive marketing of addictive and unhealthy foods. We are proud to be planting the seeds of good food!
LEGI Update
We recently started looking abroad for opportunities to help villages become energy self-sufficient through our Living Energy Global Initiative. The NiFe testing has been helpful. We do not currently have the resources on the ground to move much further in Bindura Kenya, but we have been in dialogue with various individuals and organizations about where to go next. We will keep you posted as this process evolves.
Woodgas (Finally!)lef-fall4
    We put an ad in our last newsletter about needing a technical intern. We’re very happy that Eddie answered the call, and he’s been hard at work putting together our wood gasifier. Hopefully we will have the tractor running on woodgas by the next newsletter. Thanks Eddie!
    For anyone who cares about the natural world, the long term well-being of humanity,   and the other creatures with whom we share this sacred creation called Earth, this is a difficult time in which to live. We are lost in bubble of our own creation, where trivialities dominate the public mind and the face of God has been painted over by an advertisement for automobiles. I have spent my life trying to understand why humans make such poor collective choices. For all that effort, it is clear that intellectual analysis is powerless to break the spell.
     The expansion of the industrial economy is destroying the living world. The solutions to that crisis are, at a material level, fairly simple and straightforward. There are three simple principles. The first is that we need to cooperate in the use
of resources, because renewable energy works on a village level. Villages can be sustainable. Cities and suburbs are not. The second principle is that we must practice some degree of modesty. That sounds like a tall order in an age of such grand immodesty, but it isn’t really. We do as we believe we are supposed to. We adopt the cultural norms of our society. If modest behavior were a norm, then that’s what we would do. We create norms by working together, not alone. The third principle is that we have to accept that the Earth itself, the living creation we inherited, is sacred. For some political reasons a long time ago, someone decided that spirituality and science had to be separate things. They need not be. We can, if we choose, seek scientific understanding with a ravenous appetite. And at the same time accept that we as humans need to hold faith in higher purpose.
     The Age of Reason never began. The elite grabbed the education system and made it a means of justifying their economic and political domination of our society. We look down our noses at the conservatives who deny evolution. But humans are more driven by culture than genes, and we are all equally complicit in our denial of cultural evolution. If we understood the principles of human cultural evolution, we would understand that human society is built from the ground up. As painful as the political charade of our time may be, it is just that ; a show to distract us from reality. Building an economy in which people live sustainably, own their means of livelihood, and respect the sacred Earth would be simple indeed if only we could muster the faith to work together and do so. But we have to give up the narcissism, personally and politically. We have to understand ourselves, remove education from the ivy cathedral and spread it in the streets. We have to have faith sacred Earth and our capacity to defend it.
Fall News from Living Energy Farm

Twin Oaks is Full

On the 4th of July this year, this blog pronounced that there were “Vacancies in Paradise *”.  This was our poetic way of saying that after seven years of having a long waiting list, there were actually some spaces at Twin Oaks community.  The article went into some length about how Twin Oaks is not paradise or utopia (despite both the media and academics trying to label us that way) and that this is just an internet ploy to get you to read the article based on the catchy headline.

Paradise is in your mind.  Community  is a real place.

A quick 4 months later, this is no longer true and Twin Oaks will have a waiting list again by the new year.  Maybe even a long one.

The population limit of the commune is determined by the number of adult bedrooms.  We have about 107 bedrooms total and around 15 of them are for our kids.  This leaves 92 adult member rooms.  By the time i wrote the Vacancies blog post, we had dropped to 82 members.  By last August we were at 78 members and people were really starting to worry.

Kaweah is the most recent residence.

The community does not function well at 15 people less than capacity.  There are 103 tofu shifts, 49 dishwashing shifts, 60 garden shifts and hundreds more of smaller tasks every week to keep this hyper village going.  If we are down 20% of our membership, a bunch of that work moves over to those who are still here and because some have limited work capacity, other members are even more heavily impacted. And some work just does not happen at low population, which can either drop our income or our quality of life or both.

We want to be at our population limit.

Fortunately, population at Twin Oaks has bounced back in a big way.  We are already at 87 labor sheets this week, with two more new members coming in the next couple of weeks.  This puts us just 3 less than our capacity.  The last visitor group was quite unusual in that it had 10 visitors and every single one applied for membership (this has not happened in the last 19 years). A couple actually said they say the Vacancies in Paradise article and it spurred them to apply.

While we will not accept everyone one of them probably and some are interested in joining in the spring, just the threat of a waiting list will fill us faster than normal.  Plus there are at least 4 really good visitors in the November group who are very serious about membership including lovers and sisters of members, who want to come soon.

Don’t despair.  If you really want to live in community there are still many which have openings, even here in Louisa county, even with income sharing.  And if your heart is set on Twin Oaks, then just apply to do a visit.  About 20 members a year move on, you won’t have to wait too long before there is a place for you.

Perhaps this is the right place for you?
Twin Oaks is Full

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A new and much more open “Indies”

from las Indias 34 ~ Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 ~ Link to original article

(Note: las Indias is a commune in Spain.)


At the end of last year, we began the fusion of Enkidu and Las Indias. Not only was it the logical conclusion of the logic of integration, but also a reorganization of the whole group that prepared us for a new stage, both in terms of the market—with new products, channels, and ideas we’ve been working on since 2015—and our social impact and utility for our surroundings.

mayra manuel nat notarioAt the beginning of July, we sealed the first part with the signing of the merger between the two cooperatives. It was the first “paw.” But we have two more: the Art, a tool that we have never been able to develop the way it deserved, and the Club, which, since November, has been holding activities almost every Thursday. So not surprisingly, the guide to reorienting both “paws” has been fed by the public discussion among the members of the club in La Matriz. The result of all this reflection is that we believe that we have finally found a form and growing activities that are called to make the most of each of the pieces we’ve built during these years. And we’ve given ourselves an objective: it’s all going to be ready before October first, the eve of the 14 anniversary of Las Indias.

Our toolbox

indianos manuel y mayra barajasThe Group has always been a “toolbox” for us, more than an end in itself, because we have always distinguished clearly between the community, in all its degrees and forms of relationship, and objects—cooperative, association, whatever—which let the people of that community build what they want. That doesn’t mean that they can have things any way they want. A clear and orderly toolbox, where it’s intuitively clear which tool to go to for each new idea or problem, and which also puts them within arm’s reach, ultimately leads to building more and better.

In the group, there are three tools: Sociedad de las Indias Electrónicas (Society of the Electronic Indies), which is the economic base and the market-facing platform of the Indiano communards, with its own system of integration; El Arte de las Cosas (the Art of Things), which is the structure to spread cooperativism through community production of everyday goods and objects; and las Indias Club, which is the group’s space for deliberation, reflection, and learning. We Indianos commit to involve ourselves both in Art and in the Club and contribute as much as we know how and are able; but not all members of the Art will participate in the reflections of the Club, nor will all the members of the Club want to make beer or whatever is proposed at a given time in the Art.

The Cooperative Group in detail

  1. Esfera_armillarThe Sociedad de las Indias Electrónicas («Society of the Electronic Indies») is the worker cooperative through which the Indiano communards enter the market. As head of the group, it is responsibility for sustaining and driving the other two pieces. Because, like the medieval monastaries, it’s not just about having founded a community way of life, which is sustainable, thanks to the market, and which allows the communards to enjoy their passion for learning and growing; it’s also about making everything we’ve learned available to our surroundings because, if we do it well, new ways of living and working will expand around us—a new culture and a different economic practices “within the shell of the old society,” which will be what really creates social change.
  2. Aguila_calimalaEl Arte de las Cosas («The Art of Things») has became a worker cooperative with an open social base, dedicated to the promotion of cooperativism through the community production of everyday goods and objects. That is, it’s about expanding the community experience and cooperative production, making, offering integration as a “collaborating partner” to whoever wants, for example, to make beer, as we are already doing, soap, books, electronic gadgets, drip irrigation systems, etc.; We are already organizing anyone interested in the community production of beer for personal consumption and enjoyment, in the same way we would organize market-oriented cooperative production. That is, the Art is becoming our main tool to empower our surroundings with practices and productive technologies applied to everyday life, so people can enjoy and make the most of the reduction of optimal scales of production and experiment and learn the modes of production among peers.
  3. granada clublas Indias Club is already the group’s space for deliberation, reflection, and learning. From November to July, it went through a “constituent” stage. In the new stage, it has to to keep creating spaces of deliberation outside of the ambient noise, proposing new topics—from robotification to poetry, or the new forms of expression in the blogosphere—like we did from February to June, in more than a dozen meetings. And we practice new, more regular formats, like the next European gathering around the news that Eŭropano publishes on a daily basis from a transnational perspective, which is so valuable these days.

Surely, this is the moment to change the format of the “Someros.” Somero is first and foremost the annual conference of the Club, and the Club is already mature enough to move on to a new kind of meeting: to go from listening to outsiders’ experiences, to listening to its own members. The format needs to go from the kind typical of every event intended to get the public’s attention to the kind used in the “Meetings of Economic Democracy” that we organized years ago (which doesn’t mean we might not organize other event with a form similar to the one used so far in Somero, with another name). Now, the members of the Club need to do the talking. They are the ones that need to do presentations, take part in gatherings, discuss new ideas, make proposals, and offer reflections to others. It’s about taking the leap from the “call to action” that the two first “Someros” were, to the social constitution of the Club as an association with mood and momentum of its own, dedicated to feeding the rest of our community, in the broadest sense, with ideas and deliberation.

In the same self-managed logic, we should, over the remainder of year, organize the GNU social Camp in an open call specific to the members of the club and people involved in the development of GNU social across Europe.

Forms of integration

indianos notaría fusiónEvery tool has its own forms of integration, which, together, allow for a whole range of commitments. The Society of Las Indias has its own itinerary of integration, which is well-known for all its alternatives and possible results; in the Art of Things, the normal way will be enter as a collaborating partner to be part of concrete projects oriented towards personal consumption (beer, for example) or the market (creating a book, developing a product for the direct economy), but it could well be that over time, it could have full-time worker-members; and in the Club, one could be a full member—those dedicated to maintaining and financing the structure, or collaborator—the members who participate in deliberation and activities.

What about the future?

aniversario lamatriz 1Among friends and members of the Club, there already exist initiatives that indicate that in the Indiano community, which is made up of all members of the three structures, all kinds of ventures will emerge. We hope that many of them will be integrated naturally into the cooperative group.

So, if we do things well, we could be on the path to having, with an expanded group that can hold many more people than today, the first node to materialize the big idea that arose from this community to win over theoreticians and activists from across the world, from Michel Bauwens to Kevin Carson: the phyle. That’s what orients us, and we must not lose it, but also not forget that, as the Communard Manifesto said:

We have to confront a gigantic problem created by over-scaling, from smallness, with smallness, and step by step.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

A new and much more open “Indies”

The Election and the Movement

by Connor


Last night, during our shared meal, all seven of us at Compersia discussed our emotions after the shock of election night 2016.  Reactions were a mixed spectrum of grief, tempered somewhat for the sake of the children – in the end though it was their reactions that cut through to me.  Cheerily, one of our little ones described a creative coping project they participated in at school. The picture they described drawing was shocking, sad, and perhaps inevitable after the traumatic saturation of this past year; a ghoulish dystopian potpourri of bigotry and violence, some hyperbolized and some all too familiar, unfiltered by the experience that we adults quietly hold as backstop to our political frenzy.  In it I saw reflected my own fears for the future, both the concrete and the absurd.


Trump won.

Those are hard words to write, and harder words to swallow.  It seemed unthinkable, but even if the popular vote had changed the final results we would be forced to confront the reality that almost 50% of the United States embraced a platform and a candidate that seems anathema to everything we stand for as a movement.

Living at a fledgling project, we’ve been thinking hard about how we wish to be seen and the membership we want to attract.  We are committed to the ideals of equity, anti-discrimination, sustainability, communication, and growth.  Our processes are specifically designed to include everyone equally, to encourage confidence and not favor those with an excess of privilege or ambition.  We’ve all felt recently that the world was turning in our direction – that perhaps the time was right for these ideas to finally blossom and gain a wider audience.  The results of the election seem at first glance to be a stinging rebuke of that optimism.  It’s tempting to despair that the racism, sexism, nationalism, and religious bigotry on prominent display seems not only to have been accepted but rewarded – how could we have been so wrong about who we were?


But I believe that this viewpoint ignores the true impetus behind the results.  The majority of the country did not vote in favor of hatred, but in reaction to a terror which has been carefully and cynically stoked for years.  Our political process has become addicted to fear.  Precious little else is left that can inspire us; We are disenfranchised by a system which, despite newly elected faces and promises, despite victories negotiated or wrested, refuses to confront the forces that keep us in misery.  What motivation could there be to not attempt something new and better?  Only fear, the base threat of annihilation to ourselves and those we hold dear.  And so that final impetus has been used again and again by those who would use our strength for their own, turning us in anger against one another – against the very people we seek to protect.

Part of why we chose to locate ourselves in the city was the desire to be surrounded by viewpoints and experiences different from our own, to overcome superficial divisions and create a more inclusive vision.  There has never been a greater need to reach out to those we think of as our antagonists, to work together and break new ground in a way that sidesteps tribalism and divisiveness.


America is desperate for a better way.  We have chosen rashly, and without thought towards what will replace that which we tear down, blinded by unachievable promises.  When these too are not delivered there may be an opportunity – a chance to break through to people, many of whom truly viewed this as their final chance at salvation.  The next four years will be difficult.  We will have to be more engaged, more committed, to push back against threats to the values we hold dear, to stand with and fight for those unable to defend themselves.  In short, we will have to continue that which we are already undertaking everyday, with redoubled effort and an open mind.  We are uniquely suited, called upon even, to build a better alternative to what we’re witnessing around us.

The message of change at the heart of our movement is one that has never been needed more desperately.  Together, we can see it realized.

The Election and the Movement

Feeling Rich

by Becky Visitor


I heard about Twin Oaks a few years ago when I first looked up intentional communities on Wikipedia. I almost immediately emailed them gushing about how much overlapping our values are and how much I would love to live there. After a few years of college and working I finally found a three week chance to come here and my passion has been reignited. I am in love. The four-acre garden provides much of the food we eat and eight cows are milked every day to provide all the milk, yogurt, cream, and cheese for the 100 person community. All of the buildings have been built by community members, as well as chairs, hammocks, and various other crafts that are sold in fairs around Virginia [and the east coast]. It is a dream of self-sufficiency. There is a sauna, a pond, and massage tables around the community that are used on the reg. I honestly feel like I’m in summer camp for adults. Just like summer camp there is cuddling and hair-dying but peppered in are various conversations about the state of the world and what can be done to fix it. Socially conscious books and conversations can be found almost anywhere. I am surrounded by people that I admire and people who have not been complacent about their situation in the world. People who are actively working to create alternatives to the isolating and increasingly unsustainable lifestyle that is the norm. It’s empowering.

A core principle of the community is egalitarianism so there is very little individual property and allowance, but it feels like everyone is rich here. You can sign out a car – if you want to. You have health and dental care – if you need it. You eat delicious, organic, freshly picked, freshly cooked meals twice a day – and someone else cleans up. The longest commute you’ll have here is a fifteen minute walk in the woods to the other end of the community. Under my estimate the quality of life is outstanding. In just two weeks here I’ve had swing dance lessons, had a massage night, been to a bonfire, had a full moon ceremony, read in the various hammocks strung up in picturesque places, explored an old mill down the road, and played with baby calves. I feel rich here.

Mele tours a visitor group.
A visitor’s group at Twin Oaks around 2002

The community has an intricate and well-documented system of self-governance. There are planners, councils, and managers of various areas of the community. There is 42 hours a week expected here and that can be split up among many different fields of interest. In one day you can work in an office, clean out the compost toilets, and cook a meal for 100 people. All the work is valued equally. You don’t get any perks for working in an office or as a manager. It’s wonderful to see work that is traditionally considered feminine or work that is considered lower class to be valued equally to traditionally masculine or higher class work.

I’ve only been here for two weeks, but I can already see myself living here for a long time – a few years, and maybe longer. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this place and knowing that communities like this exist gives makes me feel hopeful for the world at large.

Commune baby transport at Twin Oaks plus the courtyard gingko in full fall glory, photo by Megan


Feeling Rich